Wednesday, March 22
WNBC’s 11 o’clock news plunged directly into the mouth of hell on Sunday night, March 19.
Here’s what viewers saw when they tuned in: weekend anchor Glen Walker, sitting all alone in a vaguely familiar, bare-bones newsroom, reading the day’s news, sports and weather, and apologizing over and over for major technical difficulties. There were no graphics. No fancy set. No animated weather maps. No weather man ! It sort of looked like what New Yorkers might get if a nuclear bomb landed squat on Rockefeller Center.
At times, when Mr. Walker would introduce video “cut-ins,” there would either be footage with no sound or an entirely black screen with only sound–or nothing at all. The problem lasted for the entire broadcast.
Toward the end of the half-hour, Mr. Walker introduced Chuck Scarborough, reporting on the Pope from Jerusalem. All those miles away, Mr. Scarborough–cool as a cucumber, as usual–looked beyond the many woes of the Middle East to send along his regrets about the terrible state of things back home at News Channel 4 at 11 P.M. As the sun rose over Israel, he did his live report on the papal visit. Then he signed off. But the camera stayed on him, recording his every breath and flinch for an uncomfortable while, until viewers practically ached over the nightmarish state of affairs at WNBC. The station’s misery ended at 11:30.
So what happened? According to Liz Fischer, WNBC’s publicity director: “Two minutes to air, our audio board stopped working.” The audio board, Ms. Fischer noted, controls both the studio’s microphones and tape machines. “The logic that runs the software failed,” she said. “It put the audio board into record mode rather than playback mode, and you need playback for air. We had no microphones and no audio from the playback machines.”
With seconds to airtime, the News Channel 4 team rushed upstairs to another studio. It had only one camera, though, and sportscaster Bruce Beck and meteorologist John Marshall had to stand by, watching and helping Mr. Walker from the sidelines. Unfortunately, the cut-ins were being inserted from the master control board, causing the apparent inability to get both sound and footage at the same time.
NYTV tried to call Paula Madison, WNBC’s news director, but her assistant informed NYTV that she’d been on vacation since March 16, a few days before the fateful night. Mr. Walker couldn’t be reached; chances are he didn’t want to relive the horror, anyway.
Ms. Fischer said the station had taken measures to prevent a recurrence; they’ve installed a new backup mini-audio board. [WNBC, 4, 11 P.M.]
Thursday, March 23
Debut of NBC’s new show Daddio , starring Michael Chiklis, about a stay-at-home dad. [WNBC, 4, 8:30 P.M.]
Friday, March 24
Cinemax airs Idle Hands , about some guy who can’t control his possessed hands. [Cinemax, 33, 8 P.M.]
Saturday, March 25
Bodacious Jennifer Tilly hosts the Independent Spirit Awards on the Independent Film Channel. Last chance to set eyes on her until the next Chucky movie. [Independent Film Channel, 81, 11:30 P.M.]
Sunday, March 26
It’s Oscar time, and that means Joan Rivers and daughter Melissa do their feisty Academy Awards Pre-Show . Also, watch out for Joan Rivers’ new line of skin-care products on QVC. “I wouldn’t put my name on anything unless it was great,” Ms. Rivers said. [E Entertainment, 24, 6 P.M.]
Monday, March 27
The scene is a grungy downtown bar. A boy and a girl stand face to face. Moody, alternative music hums in the background. Above the din comes the voice of a girl. “I met Indie Rocker at Drinkland. He had a wicked sense of humor, but he had such a pale face and slender bod that I wasn’t sure I could get it up for him. But when I asked him to walk me home, I found myself getting increasingly curious about his mouth.”
Sound familiar? Yup, it’s Amy Sohn, the ex- New York Press , ex- New York Post columnist in her new animated TV show, Avenue Amy , about–you guessed it–Ms. Sohn and the opposite sex. Avenue Amy is part of a rotating cycle of animated shorts on X-Chromosome, which airs on the Oxygen network on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 P.M. Sort of like the way The Simpsons first ran on the Tracy Ullman Show , if the Tracy Ullman show had been animated.
Ms. Sohn left the New York Post in December because they did not let her compare Rudy Giuliani to Hitler. She had some time on her hands so she started dreaming up a show, a TV show. Avenue Amy is loosely based on Ms. Sohn’s Female Trouble column in the New York Press . Joan Raspo, an in-house director of the production company Curious Pictures, called up Ms. Sohn and wanted to talk business. “We got along really well,” Ms. Sohn said. “They were a cool New York City production company! On the first day, she bought me milkshakes.”
Aside from the authentic slacker dialogue, Avenue Amy features some pretty cool animation–a mix of real-life images and drawings. The characters move about the screen in a trippy kind of way, which is achieved by showing them every third frame.
It seems Ms. Sohn was born to trouble. “We’re operating under some language restrictions,” Ms. Sohn said. “Like a ‘shit’ became ‘shh’ which is like when they don’t bleep the whole word but they put some air in there. I think they might do the same thing with ‘bitch’ and ‘freakin” in a later episode.”
Ms. Sohn is willing to put up with the intrusion if Oxygen asks for more Avenue Amy s. They’ve already broadcast three, and there are three more to go.
In April, Ms. Sohn learns whether or not Oxygen will keep her show. Meanwhile, she’s written an epic poem in 26 cantos, each one representing … no, wait, that’s someone else. Ms. Sohn has written two screenplays and is busy pitching them to Hollywood producers. One is a romantic comedy, “and that’s all I’ll say,” she said. The other is a slasher film about a glam-rock band visited by the ghost of their dead lead singer.
Good luck, Ms. Sohn! If you make it to Hollywood, and we have a feeling you will, don’t forget your pals back at NYTV. Meanwhile, since you slobs don’t have a satellite dish, you can’t get Oxygen. Settle for Golden Girls on Lifetime. [Lifetime, 12, 11:30 P.M.]
Tuesday, March 28
Jeff Boggs, a writer and producer for The Tom Green Show , met Monica Lewinsky at a party in Los Angeles last summer. He spied her across a crowded room and came up with a line: “I’ve got a black Corvette.” Ms. Lewinsky took the bait. The couple dated for the next two months, attending movies and a David Brenner show while sharing their mutual interest in Dawson’s Creek . Then in the fall, Ms. Lewinsky moved to New York to pursue a career in fashion design and the relationship ended.
Mr. Boggs, 27, grew up outside Indianapolis and studied communications at Indiana University. After college, he was hired as a writer’s assistant at Late Show With David Letterman . He got coffee, wrote some jokes and helped out with the Top Ten list. Writer Gerry Mulligan was his mentor. During the 1998 Winter Olympics, Mr. Boggs came up with the idea of the Zamboni race, which cost NBC $37,000 to produce.
After Letterman , Mr. Boggs got a job with Monday Night Football writing gags for the ill-fated preshow.
“After Monday Night Football I went to Arizona to an Indian reservation where my sister’s husband was a teacher. It was a goal of mine to play poker for an entire year, but I got my ass kicked in a week. The same Indian woman beat me three nights in a row.”
On that third night, Mr. Boggs lost $400 to the Indian lady and went home to rethink his future. He took a job on The Tom Green Show . After he met Ms. Lewinsky, Mr. Boggs asked Ms. Lewinsky to film an episode of the show in Canada, and Ms. Lewinsky agreed.
Though broken up, the couple remain friendly. Mr. Boggs described Ms. Lewinsky as “very nice, personable and an all-around nice girl.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Green is telling people he has testicular cancer. [MTV, 20, 9:30 P.M.]